I saw him from the corner of my eye. Reaching slowly to grasp a small edge of the wall as he shuffled from the bathroom, he held a large walking cane in his right hand to steady his gait.
“Honey, thanks for letting me head back to see my parents. I’ve made a casserole for you guys. It’s in the fridge for tomorrow.”
“No problem, dear. I’ve got the kids. Have fun.”
His hair was grey, his clothing looked re-worn, a bit disheveled. Every step looked like an effort. His progress was slow, measured.
“How many patients do we have to round on tonight?”
“We still have to see the four patients from yesterday, but I already took care of Mr. C’s pre-op orders for tomorrow.”
“Thank you. I’ve got the kids tonight because my wife’s out of town.”
He stopped briefly and looked down the long hall, as if to measure his next few steps. The hall stretched before him. He appeared uncertain of his ability to continue as he grasped the enormity of his task.
We headed up for rounds. The mechanical door flew open and there he was, seen from the corner of my eye. It was the end of the day. Cleaning up the last few things before heading home. To the kids. Car-pool. Dinner. Homework. I’ve got to get these rounds done! Will anyone be there when the kids get home? We pressed on, silently passing the old man. Once he was behind us, we forgot about him and continued our rounds.
At least so I thought.